SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 B1063.1 booster carrying a very particular payload: The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich radar altimeter satellite. The booster lifted off at 12:17 a.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-4, located in California. The mission was also the first time a Falcon 9 booster launched from the aforementioned air force base since June 2019.
What is the Sentinel-6 Mission?
Sentinel-6 will collect sea-level measurements. It will also be able to collect measurements for more than 90% of the world’s oceans.
The mission is a joint-venture between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was neither designed nor built by SpaceX.
Sentinel-6 will also have on-board digital altimeters that can collect millimeter-scale changes in water elevation. These altimeters will enable the satellite to release updated maps of all oceans every 10 days. This allows scientists to obtain accurate data on how much rising sea levels are eroding coastlines.
The mission’s main objective is to help governments prepare for natural disasters by analyzing data gathered by the satellite.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be deployed into low-earth orbit, exactly 1,336 kilometers above earth. It will reach its position in approximately seven weeks. It is named after the former director of NASA’s Earth Science Program, Micheal Freilich. Freilich served in that capacity from 2006 until his retirement from the agency in February 2019.
A Mission That Was Lengthily Postponed
SpaceX used the 11-day delay to conduct Merlin engine testing and inspections. The company performed a successful static fire test for the B1063 on November 17, ultimately satisfying NASA’s requirements.
SpaceX experienced a rough patch in September and October, when it was forced to scrub five missions in total. For all intents and purposes, it is back on track and is conducting successful missions at an accelerated cadence.